Will Google Fiber Change The World (Anytime Soon?)

April 20, 2013 - Written By Benjamin Commet

Google’s attempt to enter the high-speed internet market quite frequently leaves us with more questions than Google is willing to answer. No one outside of their mountain view headquarters seems to have any idea of  how many homes Google is actually going to try to get Fiber in or even what the effects Fiber would have. We do know that one of the basic ideas is to put pressure on the big Internet providers like Times Warner and AT&T by showing what insanely fast internet is capable of to the general public.

Someone certainly needs to light a fire underneath those telecoms behinds, I know from firsthand experience just what living with AT&T “broadband” is like. Usually on a good day I will get four or five Mb download speed and just one Mb up. In addition the service is incredibly inconsistent, occasionally offering slightly higher speeds but almost always slower. The idea of Gigabit speeds up and down is absolutely mind-boggling. No video would ever buffer, heck a 20 minute HD YouTube video would upload in less than a minute!

Then there is the “free internet” option from Google. This has the potential to be a game-changer for the millions of people too wary of cable company contracts to sign up for the internet. For a one time fee of $300 (less than a years charges from an average ISP) you can purchase a box that will give you consistent 5 Mb down and 1 Mb up. While these speeds are not the best, they are guaranteed for at least seven years. If you spread the initial purchase price out over that time period you are paying an insanely, ridiculously low $3.50 a month for internet access! I’m paying $30 a month for the same thing right now!

Now it remains to be seen exactly how committed to Fiber Google really is. A large-scale roll-out would be very expensive, even for Google.For example Provo, Utah is the most recently announced city to be blessed with Fiber.  The city has about 100,000 residents and it will cost Google 30 million dollars to connect all of their houses. While thirty million isn’t exactly significant when it comes to Google, the cost of bringing Fiber to a large city like New York or Los Angeles could run into the billions.

For now Fiber will most likely continue to be slowly rolled out in medium-sized markets like Kansas City, Austin and Provo. Google will need a few years to determine if their return on investment will make a larger scale roll-out feasible. While Google has always been philanthropic I doubt even they are willing to drop a few billion dollars to provide only 20 million homes with crazy internet without significant evidence that they would reap financial benefits. So I guess for now I will just have to dream about the day that when I see snow falling in mid April I could just hop on the computer and download a 1080p movie in under five minutes. Come on Google, Michigan needs some fiber in its diet too!